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ProPublica is a prominent American nonprofit news organization that produces investigative journalism.
ProPublica was founded by former Wall Street Journal editor Paul Steiger and San Francisco-area billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler in 2007 and launched to much attention shortly thereafter. It is based in New York and had 43 full-time employees as of 2012.
Much of ProPublica’s funding has been provided by the Sandlers’ foundation, which pledged up to $10 million per year for the first three years; other foundations and individuals have provided smaller amounts. The organization received a $1.9 million grant from the Knight Foundation in 2012 to expand its data journalism operation, including the Pair Programming Project,which allows news programmers to use the ProPublica offices to work on data projects. It also received a $1 million award from the MacArthur Foundation in 2014. ProPublica employed 34 journalists in 2012, and in 2011 it spent $9.6 million. That year, for the first time, it raised more than half of its funding from sources outside of the Sandlers. By 2012, the non-Sandler funding had reached 62%.
Though it has a regularly updated website and a presence in social media, ProPublica distributes its stories primarily by offering them to traditional news organizations for free. It also releases its stories through a Creative Commons license, and, in 2012, began publishing some stories as e-books. As of early 2011, ProPublica has worked with more than 100 publishing partners, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, The Guardian, Frontline, and Upworthy. In some collaborations, ProPublica and the news organization share reporting duties and bylines. In one collaboration with Digital First Media, news organizations get pre-publication access to ProPublica’s apps. In another with the Huffington Post, the two organizations used volunteers to search political ad spending records. ProPublica also collaborated with The Guardian and The New York Times in reporting on the NSA documents leaked in 2013 by Edward Snowden.
ProPublica won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011, its second, for coverage of questionable practices on Wall Street. It was the first time the prize was awarded for stories published only online, not in print. ProPublica’s first Pulitzer Prize in 2010 was shared with The New York Times for a New York Times Magazine piece on a New Orleans hospital where 45 patients died in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2009, journalists from ProPublica and The New York Times founded DocumentCloud, a nonprofit open-source document publishing site, funded through a Knight News Challenge grant. ProPublica also runs ChangeTracker, a site that monitors government websites for changes.
ProPublica has used its resources to help other news organizations undertake similar investigative efforts, creating “reporting recipes” for other organizations, showing journalists how to uncover medical misconduct and connecting struggling homeowners with local journalists. It also runs a Data Store that sells datasets used in its reporting and plans to include most of the data it uses in the store.
ProPublica has emphasized crowdsourcing and participatory journalism, incorporating online communities in its reporting efforts. It hired Amanda Michel, who ran The Huffington Post’s Off The Bus citizen journalism project, to coordinate its network of 7,000 volunteers. Michel launched the volunteer ProPublica Reporting Network in May 2009, putting it to work documenting local projects using federal stimulus money. In June 2011, ProPublica launched #MuckReads, a socially edited collection of investigative journalism pieces. In 2012, the site used a Facebook group to report on patient safety issues, and in 2013, it launched a Reddit channel for suggesting stories.
The Sandlers have long been involved in liberal political causes, which initially raised some concern about whether their politics would influence ProPublica. The organization has also drawn criticism about its top editors’ and executives’ salaries, three of which topped $300,000 in 2009.
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